WATTENS, Austria — “Business models are changing rapidly and we need to move ever faster to provide customers with what they want,” says Nadja Swarovski, a fifth-generation member of the family business who joined in 1995 and repositioned the crystal company into a fashion forward brand. Today she is a member of the executive board at the 120-year old Austrian firm.
Swarovski believes that the adoption of new technology will be “critical” in 2017, in terms of production, marketing, communication, distribution and throughout the retail experience. “We’re committed to ongoing investments in production technology — for example with robotics — to increase speed and flexibility and to ensure competitive manufacturing costs,” she explains.
While the company’s jewellery collections and creative designer collaborations may be front of mind for many consumers, “the core elements of our brand are our technical skills as master cutters and producers of crystal,” says Swarovski. “We not only focus on innovation and evolution but also on reinvention [so] our product development team in Wattens is continually finding new ways to push the boundaries.”
Perhaps 2017 will be more about creating an industry of values, especially with so much uncertainty in the world.
Moving to a flexible global product offering and responding to trends “in real time” will become even more important for product development in the year to come, she suggests. “One of the best examples [from 2016] is from [the launch of ] Atelier Swarovski Home. Our Wave Cut technology — which required around 10 years of R&D — debuted with the late Zaha Hadid’s Crista centrepiece. It’s the first time we’ve been able to cut curved forms in crystal.”
“We’re also making investments in our marketing and distribution value chain and our online platforms,” she says, referring to crystals-from-swarovski.com, the firm’s shoppable showcase of partner brand products, featuring items as diverse as stilettos from upmarket European fashion brands to T-shirts from Asian contemporary brands. “Nearly 50 percent of our traffic now comes from mobile, so continually investing in search is very important,” she adds.
Swarovski is keeping a watchful eye on digital developments and tech advances related to the mobile channel. “[That’s why] we launched our Snapchat channel this year [and] why we’re developing our s-commerce, using tools like the Tapshop visual commerce platform on Instagram to allow followers to shop our feed in a beautiful, seamless manner.”
Besides amplifying the company’s investment in creativity and technology, Swarovski underscores another area of business she has at the forefront of her mind — sustainability. The firm has been monitoring and publishing its sustainability credentials since 2010 and recently embarked on a number of new initiatives. Although she believes that more progress needs to be made across the wider fashion industry, she is hopeful that next year could usher in a more responsible mood.
“Perhaps 2017 will be more about creating an industry of values, especially with so much uncertainty in the world. We understand the importance of creating a positive impact for both people and the planet — and we’re committed to doing so.”
The State of Fashion 2017 is The Business of Fashion and McKinsey & Company's in-depth report on the global fashion industry in 2017, focusing on the themes, issues and opportunities impacting the sector and its performance.